|A Moldovan serial killer has been sentenced to life in prison by a court in Israel for killing four Russian immigrants. He burned the bodies of his victims after brutally murdering them. Now, Pridnestrovie's Russians reach out to Moldova to stop hate crimes.
The Haifa District Court on Sunday sentenced Nicolae Bonner, a Moldovan, to four consecutive life sentences for the grisly serial killings of four immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Also known under the name Nicolai Bonner, the Moldovan-born immigrant is 33 years old.
The victims were all beaten, their faces bruised, and then attempts were made to set their bodies on fire. According to the charge sheet, Bonner's first victim was a female Haifa resident of Russian descent who invited the Moldovan to her home, where she was brutally raped and sodomized before having her lower body set on fire.
In addition to the four life terms in prison, Bonner also received another 17 years simultaneously: He was also sentenced to five years' imprisonment for attempted murder, nine years' imprisonment for aggravated rape, and three years for other charges including aggravated assault and interfering with judicial proceedings.
Bonner, an ethnic Moldovan, moved to Israel from Moldova in 2000. He is not Jewish, but was allowed to immigrate to Israel alongside his Jewish wife who later died, too. From Chisinau, he brought his unmarried sister, Lucia Bonner, to Israel. She was later deported back to Moldova for not being Jewish and thus not meeting immigration requirements.
Serial killer's targets: Russians
According to Israel's Haaretz newspaper, although the first murder occurred in 2005, police did not suspect a serial murderer until the third body of Valeri Soznov was uncovered two months later, and similarities were noted between the crime scenes.
Before that, Aleksander Levnat - another Russian - had also been murdered by the Moldovan who confessed to hating all Russians. This was the second victim, and the first male to die in the killing spree.
On May 1, an important Soviet holiday, Bonner celebrated by murdering his fourth Russian, Aleksander Keres, whom he had met the day before.
" - I didn't even know his name," Bonner told investigators, according to the Haaretz newspaper. "Really, I didn't."
Initially he confessed to the murders, but in court on Sunday he pleaded innocent. Bonner's claim of innocence failed to persuade the judges. They noted that, apart from his confession, he had also led interrogators to the scenes of the murders.
He was also a suspect in the brutal murder of Sergei Dvorkin, whose body was burnt to a crisp near the main Tel Aviv bus terminal in December 2004. Police believe that the method used by the Tel Aviv killer was similar to that employed in Bonner's four murders in Haifa. For example, each of the bodies found in both cities was burnt. Also, Bonner admitted to being in Tel Aviv on the day of the murder in question.
Among the witnesses who testified in court was Sergei Blobstein, a Russian Jew. Nicolae Bonner tried to kill Sergei Blobstein on his 42st birthday. Unable to set him on fire, Bonner left him for dead. The Russian victim survived by dragging himself to the hospital, where he stayed for three days, suffering from broken ribs, slashes on his face and respiratory problems.
Russians community worried about Moldovan hate crimes
After the verdict, a member of the Russian community expressed relief that Bonner had finally been put behind bars. "I pray he dies there," Regina Lifshits said of the Moldovan serial killer.
Haifa's Russians have recently taken steps to protect their community from what they fear could become a series of copycat crimes by other Moldovans targeted against Russians.
With the blessing of Israel's authorities, 20 Russians have banded together in a new volunteer police "immigrants battalion" under the command of Colonel Vadim Slepakov. An ethnic Russian with family ties to Pridnestrovie, Slepakov is a veteran paratrooper who has fought in Afghanistan.
He now leads an elite Russian-speaking, Russian-looking volunteer police unit to protect the immigrant community. The unit members, with their black shirts bearing the logo of a growling Russian bear, are a formidable sight. They have received equipment and formal police training from the city's law enforcement.
" - This is our last chance to save this neighborhood," Haifa police Commander Nir Mariash told Israel's Haaretz newspaper.
Suitcase, trainstation, Russia!
In the Republic of Moldova, ethnic Moldovans have 'de facto' immunity for hate crimes against Russians, and no Moldovan has ever been convicted by a Moldovan court for politically motivated attacks on Russians.
The Moldovan hate rhetoric has spilled outside Moldova's borders as well, and other ethnic minorities have also been the targets of intolerance. Last year, Cabinet member Avigdor Lieberman — an immigrant from Moldova — declared that Palestinian citizens of Israel "have no place here" and that they should "take their suitcases and get lost."
This was a direct echo of a slogan which the Moldovan-born cabinet member learned from Moldova's independence movement in Chisinau in 1990. There, Moldovan treatment of its minorities took on an ominous fascist overtone as a new mantra rang out — "chemodan, vokzal, Rossiya!" "suitcase, trainstation, Russia!" — giving the Russian-speaking population their marching orders.
The slogans were repeated daily on government radio in Moldova. In Pridnestrovie, the ethnic Russians grew convinced that the natural historical independence of Pridnestrovie from Moldova had to be restored in order to avoid persecution and the very real risk of ethnic genocide. As a result, Pridnestrovie declared its independence on 2 September 1990.
Now, Pridnestrovie's Russian community is reaching out to Moldova to stop hate crimes. A meeting of Russians from the two sides of the Dniester river is scheduled for the third week of May, in order to draft a joint appeal to the Moldovan authorities. If Moldova's leadership will not crack down on government-sanctioned hate crimes, the Russian minority groups want international organizations to support Pridnestrovie's independence as a way to protect minorities and also to condemn Chisinau's official negligence of politically motivated ethnic crimes.